Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction), Part 3

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 4, 2016

This is part three of a four-part short story of one of Dirk’s adventures shortly before he met Chloe and Arianna and formed the Frayed Knights.  Parts 4 will be posted tomorrow. If you haven’t read them already,  start at Part 1:

The Thief and the Chalice, Part 1


The Thief and the Chalice, Part 3
by Jay Barnson

Dirk stood up. There was no point in trying to stay hidden anymore, and standing made it easier to run. He didn’t know how to fight an armor-plated undead thing that might not even be killable. If he could dodge and outrun the creature, perhaps he might find something on the upper floors that would give him some ideas.

First, he had to get past the creature. When all else fails, bluff like a madwoman, his mentor had always told him. His mentor, Samantha the Lame, didn’t bother altering the gender of her personal advice for his benefit. It surprised Dirk how often that advice paid off. Not that it was likely to work on an undead guardian, but in cases like this, it was best to seize the initiative. A bad idea was better than none.

“Hi there. We’re looking for your master, the sorcerer Sontex. Is he upstairs?”

The sword flared again, an even darker shade of red. The sudden light illuminated an amulet draped across the thing’s shriveled neck. Dirk couldn’t get a better look at it before the light faded and the guardian strode towards him. If the creature understood him, it didn’t like what he said.

As it stepped away from the pedestal, Taigan seized the chalice, and began screaming. The white pearls radiated crimson, a shade not too different from the sword, and all color fled from Taigan’s hair and skin. His eyes sank back into his head and his skin shriveled, bathed in the crimson glow.

Dirk leaped behind shelves as the guardian attacked. It didn’t move quickly, but it attacked like a trained swordsman, with more speed than Dirk had assumed. Dirk dodged and weaved behind furniture, but there weren’t many places to flee. He vaulted a table and raced past the pedestal. On the floor, Taigan’s shriveled corpse still clutched the glowing red chalice. Dirk gave it a wide berth. Only once he’d mounted the stairs did he dare to look back. The guardian halted at Taigan’s corpse. Dirk silently thanked whichever gods were responsible for extending his lead as he dashed up the stairs.

The next level, like the second floor, was littered with bones and skeletons. The scattered garments, sometimes loosely hanging from skeletal bones, seemed far less aged than the skeletons they were draped over.

What had Taigan said on the cart? The guards had arrested half the thieves in the city over the last year? Was this where they’d been taken, to be sacrificed to the chalice?

Dirk raced to the next set of stairs, expecting to hear the heavy armored footfalls of the guardian behind him at any moment. At some point, he might find a window or trap door large enough to make an egress… assuming he learned to fly in the meantime.

The next floor was a laboratory. Equipment and ingredients of all kinds filled shelves and tables. Tools, fasteners, and bits of wire sat in neat stacks organized by some unfathomable scheme. Dusty tomes sat open on the tables, and papers were fastened to the walls by spring-loaded clips. One of the papers caught his attention. It held a drawing of the amulet adorning the guardian’s neck, accompanied by writing. Dirk was proud of his literacy, but the words were of an arcane script that only sorcerers fully understood. He recognized a few runes, including a frequently-appearing one that Dirk recognized that meant “control.”

Other papers and open book pages held runes for “life”, “death,” “mirror,” “destruction,” and “sacrifice.” Three out of five were runes he’d taught himself to avoid. He was disappointed that none of the open writings contained the rune for “sex,” the first rune he’d learned as a boy. It had amused him endlessly that the mighty sorcerers still talked about sex in their arcane, supernatural writings.

A locked metal box sat on a desk. Finding a thin metal pin and a tiny mounting bracket to serve as lock picks, Dirk set to work. The lock popped open in seconds, and he opened the box.

The viper within hissed at him and pulled back, ready to strike.

A number of thoughts flashed through Dirk’s mind at this moment, such as how the viper had managed to stay alive within the case, but chief among these was how to avoid getting bit by the venomous creature, and how to get the shiny dagger underneath it.

Dirk waved his free hand in front of the snake. The serpent struck. At that moment, Dirk yanked his hand away while slamming the lid back down, pinning the snake inches behind its head. Maintaining pressure on the lid, he reached around with his free hand and took a firm grip on the serpent behind the head, and pulled it free of the case.

Holding it away from him with one hand, he reached back into the container and retrieved the dagger with the other, shaking it  free of its sheath.  The straight blade was smaller and thinner than he hoped, but etched with runes and held a keen edge on both sides. Was it an enchanted blade, or just used in ceremonies? Either way, he had a weapon.

He considered killing the snake, but he couldn’t help but feel bad for it. It was just a prisoner here, as was he… with a significant and confusing difference in that someone was still feeding and caring for it. That didn’t sound like a duty for the skeletal guardian.

With his best underhand throw, Dirk slung the creature down the stairs. It could find plenty of places to hide among the dead bodies. It landed with a thump, and slithered away.

The noise attracted attention. From two floors below, he heard the voice of the baron. “Someone’s upstairs. It sounds like one of our guests is still alive. Let’s remedy that.”

[ Concluded in Part 4! ]


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